BBC interviewees appear in report on extremism in UK charities

The Henry Jackson Society think tank recently published a new report:  

“The British taxpayer has handed over more than £6 million to charities that are currently, or have been in the past, used by extremists to further their radical agenda, according to a new report from the Henry Jackson Society. […]

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamist Extremists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector finds that, despite more than a decade of attempts to improve regulations, a concerning number of UK-registered charities continue to fund and support extremism.

Figures from across the Islamist spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood, form a network which seeks to delegitimise and push out moderate voices, while masquerading as representatives of ‘true’ Islam. […]

 The Charity Commission – legally unable to de-register these ‘bad’ charities – has been particularly ill-equipped to deal with these organisations. Its powers have been extended in recent legislation, but the public is still waiting for those new powers to be put to use to tackle this problem.”

The report itself states:

“Charities have long been used to support the Islamist extremist cause, with a network of charitable organisations playing a pivotal role in the funding of international jihadism. […]

Beyond the exploitation of charitable status by violent Islamist extremists to support terrorist activities, they may also be used, wittingly or unwittingly, to provide violent or non-violent extremists with the platform and legitimacy they require to spread their illiberal and extremist views. This may take the form of an individual or small group of extremist entryists seeking to abuse a pre-existing charity for their own purposes, or the establishment of an organisation with charitable status specifically for Islamist extremist objectives. These charities, which for example provide platforms for extremist individuals and promote their literature, can be used to create a climate conducive to radicalisation and introduce potentially vulnerable members of the public to individuals who hold intolerant and extremist views. […]

The 2015 Counter-Extremism strategy recognises that charities were one of the institutions vulnerable to exploitation by extremists, who may use them to spread their ideology and charities have in the past, for example, promoted hate literature inciting the murder of homosexuals and Muslims and have hosted speakers who promote homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic views.”

Members of the British public would probably not expect any of the organisations and individuals named in such a report to have been showcased by their publicly funded broadcaster. They would, however, be mistaken.

Page 37 of the report states:

“There are a number of well-reported incidents involving charities providing humanitarian aid and running aid convoys being involved in non-violent and violent extremism; above all, they highlight the blurred line between the two. On 16 October 2017 the Charity Commission published recent cases of individuals convicted of terrorism offences who were involved with charities. On 23 December 2016 two individuals, Syed Hoque and Mashoud Miah were convicted of entering into funding arrangements that they knew to be for the purposes of terrorism (contrary to Sec 17 Terrorism Act 2000). […]

During their trial the Charity Commission stated that they were investigating a number of charities organising aid convoys, including Al Fatiha Global, with which one of the pair was also involved. […]

Al Fatiha Global is a UK-registered charity that had a total income of £218,778 in the financial year ending 2016. It was investigated by the Charity Commission in 2014 after the son of its Chief Executive was photographed in Syria with two men holding assault rifles. The Charity Commission had “serious concerns about [the charity’s] governance and financial management” and set out to investigate allegations of “inappropriate links between the charity and individuals purportedly involved in supporting armed or other inappropriate activities in Syria”.

On August 13th 2014, the BBC aired a filmed report from the Gaza Strip by Orla Guerin which was based in part on a British woman’s unchallenged allegation that an IDF sniper had shot a Palestinian for “no reason whatsoever”. As was pointed out here at the time:

“Viewers are also not told that Ms Andolini’s activities in the Gaza Strip include distributing aid funded by a British charity called Al-Fatiha Global […] which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission due to “serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity”.”

The HJS report states:

“Alan Henning, an aid worker who was kidnapped and executed by Islamic State, travelled with an aid convoy reportedly organised by either Al-Fatiha Global or Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raises money for Al-Fatiha and others. […]

Additionally, Aid4Syria, whose parent charity was al-Fatiha, and for which Alan Henning had been an ambulance driver, showed signs of extremism. The charity had promoted an event entitled “O’Ummah Wake Up and Rise!” on its Facebook page, involving speakers Zahir Mahmood and Moazzam Begg. The convoy’s team leader had posted on his Facebook page “Our men love death like your men love life”, alluding to a similar quote by Osama bin Laden. Aid4Syria had also named its water project and emergency vehicles after Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in the US for attempting to kill US military personnel.”

Readers may recall that in late 2013 reports by BBC journalist Catrin Nye – who travelled with one of those convoys – were heavily promoted on a range of BBC platforms. Nye produced additional reports on the same subject in July 2014 which once again failed to adequately inform audiences of the convoys organisers’ links to extremism.

The HJS report goes on:

“One of the charity workers on the convoy, Majid Freeman, had posted extremist comments online, including calling for prayers for the brothers of Islamic State fighter Ifthekar Jaman. […] Freeman also had approvingly posted a link on Facebook to a video presenting Islamic State as a legitimate reaction to Western foreign policy. […] Freeman had retweeted support for Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, as well as the group’s propaganda, and on Facebook wrote that Jerusalem would be “conquered by jihad, not by peace”.”

Freeman – described as “a credit adviser from Leicester” – was featured in one of Catrin Nye’s articles and following the kidnapping of Alan Henning he appeared in numerous other BBC reports – e.g. here, here and here.

Another charity appearing in this report is Islamic Relief (from p.64). In 2014 the BBC published an article in which that organisation’s links to Hamas were denied and later the same year the BBC produced a very superficial report on an audit of the charity.

The organisation ‘Viva Palestina’ – which had its charitable status removed in 2013 following an inquiry by the Charity Commission – is discussed on page 72 of the HJS report. Its founder – George Galloway – has appeared frequently on BBC platforms.

Among the individuals named in the report is Cerie Bullivant of ‘Cage‘ who not only has his own BBC profile but has appeared on numerous BBC programmesincluding one on ‘how best to tackle radicalisation’. Moazzam Begg – also of ‘Cage’ – has likewise been a BBC contributor. The report also names Haitham al Haddad (from p. 96) who was featured in a series of reports by Catrin Nye as well as in additional BBC content.

As regular readers are aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However the BBC usually makes little effort to adhere to that clause when quoting and promoting NGOs, charities and their representatives.

The same editorial guidelines state that due impartiality does not require “detachment from fundamental democratic principles” of the type typically rejected by extremists and the BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “contribute to social cohesion” in the UK.

Obviously that obligation is not met – and the wider interests of the public not served – through the provision of platforms and legitimacy to extremists – particularly when charities are regularly promoted without the required disclosure of their ideologies, political agendas and any extremist links.

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Not just about journalism: BBC editorial guidelines and the wider public interest

As is of course to be expected, the horrific murder of one British charity worker by ISIS last weekend and the accompanying threat to behead another has been extensively covered by the UK media.Nye Jul 14 a

According to the Times:

“The security services are investigating whether kidnappers who abducted two Britons on aid missions to Syria were acting on insider tip-offs.

As part of efforts to build up a picture of the network around the British kidnap gang that has been executing westerners, MI5 and MI6 are trying to establish whether they had help in identifying victims. […]

It is thought unlikely that the gang, which could have as many as 20 western hostages, were able to conduct so many kidnappings without the help of informers on both sides of the border.”

The Daily Telegraph informs us that:

“Alan Henning was kidnapped within half an hour of entering Syria after he unwittingly became involved with a charity with links to alleged extremists, it has emerged.

Mr Henning, 47, now threatened with beheading by jihadists, ignored pleas from friends, colleagues and local guides not to cross the Syrian border, telling them he was determined to make sure the supplies he was carrying were delivered safely to the right people.

Mr Henning was driving an ambulance on behalf of Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raised money on behalf of Al-Fatiha Global, a registered charity currently under investigation by the Charity Commission after one of its leaders was photographed with his arms around two hooded fighters carrying machine guns. […]

There is no suggestion Mr Henning, a father of two from Eccles, Greater Manchester, knew of the apparent links between the charities and extremism. Al-Fatiha Global was only placed under investigation in March – three months after Mr Henning was kidnapped – after Adeel Ali, the son of one of its trustees, was pictured with gunmen on the front of The Sun newspaper.”

Among the BBC’s recent coverage of the issue is a filmed interview with Catrin Nye of the BBC Asian Network which was aired on BBC television news programmes on September 14th and also appears in a written report currently featured on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.  Nye met Alan Henning whilst she was making several reports for numerous BBC platforms on the topic of British aid convoys to Syria. Henning’s later participation in one of those convoys led to his kidnapping in Syria in late December 2013.Nye Jul 14 b

As was noted here at the time, Catrin Nye’s numerous reports – aired in November and early December 2013 – refrained from addressing the topic of the extremist links of some of the charities and individual activists involved in organizing those convoys. Catrin Nye produced additional reports on the same subject in July 2014 which once again failed to adequately inform audiences of the convoys’ organisers links to extremists, even though one of the charities involved in previous trips was already under investigation by the Charity Commission when the report was being made. Nye’s latest interview likewise fails to inform viewers on the same issue.

Notable too is the fact that Orla Guerin produced a report from Gaza on August 13th which was based on the claims of an ISM activist with additional links to the same UK charity currently under investigation.

It is all too clear that BBC promotion of the activities of NGOs and charities without the required disclosure of their ideologies, political agendas and any extremist links not only breaches the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality, but also goes against the wider interests of the British public in general. 

Orla Guerin’s parting shot breaches BBC editorial guidelines

“We apologize for this and would like to assure you that the matter has been raised with the relevant editorial staff at the BBC News Channel, who have been reminded of the need to clearly describe the ideology of such organizations in our coverage.”

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Amena Saleem, the above words appeared in an email from the BBC in response to a PSC complaint to the effect that the organization to which an interviewee on BBC News belongs was not adequately described to viewers as stipulated in the BBC’s editorial guidelines and reaffirmed by the BBC ECU in October 2013. However, the BBC’s commitment to the need to “clearly describe the ideology” of organisations to which interviewees are linked obviously lacks consistency – as yet another recent example shows.

On August 13th Orla Guerin filed her parting shot just prior to her departure from the Gaza Strip. That filmed report for BBC television news programmes also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes” and was promoted on Twitter by its producer Nicola Careem.

The bulk of Guerin’s report is based on a video put out by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) last month which has of course not been authenticated by the BBC. Guerin opens with a euphemistic description of the ISM as “international activists” which of course in no way informs viewers of that organisation’s ideology: a particularly relevant topic seeing as Guerin’s claims are based on the ISM’s claims.

“This is one of many cases Palestinians want the UN to investigate. International activists searching for the dead and wounded during a brief ceasefire. In the green T-shirt a 22 year-old local man Salem Shemali – looking for relatives. A shot rings out – apparently from an Israeli sniper. Salem was hit but was still calling out, still alive. After two more shots he was dead.”

Guerin of course has no proof (for example, ballistic evidence) that whoever shot Shemali was “an Israeli sniper”, but she also has no qualms about amplifying the ISM’s allegations. The video was filmed in Shuja’iya on July 20th; a neighbourhood which, as readers no doubt recall, civilians had been advised to evacuate several days previously and which was the location of the entrances to cross-border tunnels and considerable Hamas infrastructure.  After hours of fierce fighting there, Hamas requested a short ceasefire via the Red Cross and medical teams and journalists – including the BBCmoved in.Guerin ISM report

Guerin goes on to interview Rina Andolini with the caption on screen reading “International Solidarity Movement”. Again, no effort is made to inform viewers what that organization is or of its close ties to Hamas.

Guerin: “British activist Rina Andolini is the woman in the video – an eye-witness to the killing.”

Andolini: “I mean I’ve never seen anyone pretty much just shot dead in front of me. Erm…and no reason, you know, no reason whatsoever. A young lad, just wanting to look for his family, clearly distressed, as anyone would be in that situation, you know. You go to find your family and you end up dead. Where’s the justice?”

Guerin continues with more amplification of unverified, context-free claims.

“In hospital we found Salem’s uncle Nasser who was injured a week later. He told us Israeli soldiers forced their way into his home and an officer shot him at close range. ‘His face was painted’ he says, ‘but I’d know him anywhere from his eyes’.”

Guerin then goes on to join the ranks of her Middle East Editor in the department of denial of Hamas’ use of human shields.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

What Guerin’s obviously inadequate understanding of the term human shields does include is not made apparent to viewers, but she then goes on to describe just such a case – although without expanding on the topic of how 20,000 Hamas terrorists firing well over 3,000 missiles managed to “avoid the cameras” for over a month.

“During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras. But we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas. A rocket was fired from this waste ground about ten days ago. There was no ceasefire at the time. But you can see that just across the road there are people living in these apartments. These images were filmed by Indian TV just up the road. They appear to show militants firing rockets near their hotel.”

The footage which Guerin tells BBC audiences ‘appears’ to show missile fire from a residential area can be seen here. She continues:

“Hamas is accused of breaking international law by firing its rockets indiscriminately into Israel. Hamas says it’s fighting Israel’s occupation.”

Guerin makes no effort to inform viewers that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip nine years ago or that what Hamas actually says it is fighting is Israel’s existence. She closes:

“Back in the rubble Salem’s mother is calling on Hamas to avenge her son who was about to graduate from college. The Israeli army told us it cannot verify any of the circumstances in the video but is reviewing the case. It says it does not target civilians in any circumstances.”

But by that time of course, Guerin’s amplification of this ISM story has left its impression on BBC viewers who, in contradiction of BBC editorial guidelines, are still none the wiser with regard to the ideologies of the organisation which made, broke and promoted the video. 

They have no idea, for example, that one of the people involved in producing and publicising the video upon which her report is based is Joe Catron of the ISM who was given equally opaque promotion on the BBC World Service on July 31st when he was interviewed about his role as a human shield at Gaza hospitals. They have no idea that one of Catron’s fellow human shields at Wafa hospital was the 32 year-old optical dispenser from the West Midlands Rina Andolini and that both Catron and Andolini have peviously lied to the media about Hamas’ use of that hospital. Viewers are also not told that Ms Andolini’s activities in the Gaza Strip include distributing aid funded by a British charity called Al-Fatiha Global (featured by the BBC in the past in connection to convoys to Syria) which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission due to “serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity”.

And of course most importantly, as a result of all Guerin’s gross omissions viewers are unable to grasp that what she is actually doing in this report is promoting and amplifying the agenda of an organization which since the early days of the second Intifada has been providing financial, logistic and PR support to terrorist organisations which attack Israeli civilians. That information is obviously critical to viewers if they are to be able to put Guerin’s none too veiled accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’ into objective perspective.

This report’s serious omissions, however, would suggest that neither Guerin nor her producer were keen to allow BBC audiences the privilege of making up their own minds.  

 

 

 

 

 

BBC coverage of UK aid convoy fails to meet editorial guidelines on impartiality

As was noted in the comments to one of our previous posts (thanks to Duvid), a recent article from the Gatestone Institute highlights the promotion of extremist charities by the BBC.

“BBC’s leading current affairs program, Newsnight recently broadcast an eight-minute film in which a BBC reporter accompanied a British “aid convoy” headed to the most dangerous parts of Syria. […]

During the broadcast, the BBC did not, however, reveal the names of the charities involved with the convoy. The Aid for Syria Convoy is, in fact, managed by charities that many might justifiably regard as “extremist”: One Nation, Al Fatiha Global and Aid4Syria.”

Readers can see that ‘Newsnight’ broadcast here.

In addition to being featured on the BBC’s flagship news programme, a version of Catrin Nye’s report also appeared on the BBC’s Asian Network.

Catrin Nye BBC Asian network

Filmed and written versions of the report were promoted on Twitter and appeared on the BBC News website’s UK and Middle East pages.

Catrin Nye filmed website

Catrin Nye ME pge

Catrin Nye written website

There was also coverage on the BBC’s local TV (featuring one of the people mentioned in the Gatestone Institute report), on BBC World News, on BBC World Service radio and on Radio 4.

Catrin Nye BBC WS radio

Aid for Syria on BBC World News

As promoted on the Facebook account of one of the charities and on Catrin Nye’s Twitter account, further programming is scheduled for this coming weekend.

Aid for Syria FB

That, by any standard, is a great deal of coverage of one story. But of course the point – as made in the Gatestone Institute article – is that the BBC is telling half a story: in all of the above content it fails to inform viewers, readers and listeners at home and abroad of what lies beyond the humanitarian aid aspects of these charities, thus once again failing to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. 

“4.4.14

We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”